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  1. #1
    Senior Member compulsiverambler's Avatar
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    Default Is this depressive pattern common?

    The INFP suicide thread got me thinking. In that I mentioned the last time I thought about it, which is also the most seriously I've thought about it (ignoring the long period as a teenager that I can't remember very well) and the closest I've come. But the truth is it's not unusual for me. While in general I'm fairly happy, I frequently (at least once every two months) get short, sharp bouts of depression, lasting no longer than four days, in which I will usually become pre-occupied with thoughts of death and other bad ideas, like moving out on to the streets or a homeless shelter, before gradually feeling better over the course of a day or two. These are worrying because they don't seem to be triggered by anything obvious, but they are made more severe by things in my life suggesting hopelessness, and if my personal circumstances become truly hopeless they might well provide that extra push.

    So I'm wondering three things: how common is this particular pattern, has anyone had any luck overcoming it or understanding it, and might it be related to type? I wonder if dom-Fi leads to more time spent ruminating over negative feelings and not being able to leave them alone and distract yourself when they come, and if there's anything I can do to help that, or if it's entirely unrelated. In some ways I would expect Fi to be an advantage, because I do find in particular contexts I'm good at manipulating my own feelings, for example when I notice that they conflict with an ethical principle of mine or that I reach. Other people say they can't do that, if they know a feeling doesn't make sense they just accept that they've developed feelings inconsistent with their logical conclusions. I've generally imagined it to be an Fi skill to allign the two when necessary. So why do I slip so quickly from a fixation on subjects of morbid fascination (which is how it starts - I don't know if it's the trigger, or just the first sign of what's happening, as with epileptic aurae, but it's irresistable because and I can't feel much of any feeling unless it's involved, and the brain naturally seeks sufficient stimulation from wherever it can get it) into despair? Some people stay clinically depressed for months before becoming suicidal, and I don't see how they can last so long!

    I've never kept a record to find out just how regularly this happens, which perhaps would be a good idea, because if it is chronologically predictable it would seem less likely to be triggered by some aspect of my mind and more likely a biological thing.

  2. #2
    (blankpages) Xenon's Avatar
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    No idea how common it is, but I would think it isn't all that unusual. I get bouts of similar length (1-4 days), when I cry and lay around paralyzed and ruminate about everything wrong with my life and feel hopeless. I don't know how similar they are to what you're experiencing, since I am not a very happy person in general; it's just that I normally distract myself to the point of keeping the strong depressive feelings at bay. So, I am able to distract myself more often than not, but a sense of pessimism and helplessness breaks through now and then (I usually do have a pretty good idea of what triggered this, even if my reaction wouldn't make sense to someone else). I have a difficult time making any lasting changes in my life that would help with these "dips", and with my outlook in general.

    Sometimes I can change my mood (it's not usually with an "ethical principle though; I'm not even sure what you mean by that, so I guess that means I don't do it). I usually change my thoughts by looking for flaws in my logic or trying to think of counterexamples. Thing is though, it often doesn't last; at some point I start questioning my revisions, thinking maybe I was right the first time, seeing reasons or evidence that supports what I believed in the first place. Etc.

    As for people living through months of depression before becoming suicidal, are you talking about being actively suicidal or having suicidal thoughts? There's a pretty big difference between making specific, active plans, or having urges to do something to hurt yourself right now, and having passive what-if fantasies. I've fantasized about suicide plenty, but when I read descriptions of what actual urges are like I don't think I've experienced that. Urges are very serious and need to be dealt with immediately; fantasies sometimes become urges or concrete plans, but often just remain fantasies.

    I was rather surprised in the INFP and suicide thread, when people mentioned that IP types are more likely to attempt suicide (higher rates of suicidal ideation wouldn't have surprised me at all, higher rates of attempts do) . I know personally, I have such a strong tendency to think and think and never get to planning and action, I can't imagine ever doing anything so drastic, just endlessly thinking about it. I would have thought actual attempts would be more common among EPs, who are more known for being impulsive.

    I have heard of something called "soft bipolar", in which someone has mood cycles between depression and normalcy, with no real manic phases. Or, have you ever experienced elevated moods that might be hypomania? Of course it's possible there are psychological triggers that aren't quite clear to you.

  3. #3
    Vaguely Precise Seymour's Avatar
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    I've been thinking about this a bit. It seems to make sense functionally speaking to me for INFPs to tend towards depression.

    Fi is great for determining the personal value of something and its rightness and wrongness. Ne is good for seeing external possibilities for things. Both Fi and Ti (Ti being our third highest function) are good for helping to pinpoint exactly what is wrong, and also helping us to optimize our vision of the ideal state.

    However, once we see the gap between what is and how great things could or should be we suck at how to break it down into manageable steps or enlist external resources (more the role of Te), or how to socially achieve what we we want interpersonally and how to enlist the help of others (more the role of Fe).

    So instead we tend to feel stuck in the painful awareness of how things fall short (including ourselves). Even feeling that we shouldn't be stuck and that change should be possible becomes another source of distress.

    Throw in a little undeveloped, shadowy Te ("life suckage is a general principle") and a little unhealthy Si ("and here are specific 'facts' to back that up") and the INFP can easily feel trapped. Not only is there a huge gap between the painfully actual and the bearably good, but (so you think in the moment) there's no way to get there without changing the fundamental reality of yourself or your culture.

    At any rate, I'm sure depression is hardly unique to INFPs, but with our functional ordering it sure seems likely, especially when one is younger. Idealism can be a harsh taskmaster, and when one feels driven by its demands yet feels powerless to meet them, it's not a happy state.

    I think as we get older we learn to how to better engage the world, and we learn to temper both are self-directed negativity and our unrealistic idealism. However, when we are young we haven't yet had a chance to develop our other functions (or learned how to manage our own quirks), and the functions we do have aren't that societally valued.

    I think being an INFP is great, but in some ways it's kind of an unlucky hand to be dealt when young.

  4. #4
    Shaman BlackCat's Avatar
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    This isn't related to Fi... this is an enneagram four trait. INFPs most commonly are type 4's, and what you said here exactly-

    time spent ruminating over negative feelings and not being able to leave them alone and distract yourself when they come
    Is exactly what four's do. Also 4w5s are more likely to think about morbid things, which is what you seem to be based on what I've seen of you (4w5).

    I would say that the best way for fours to stop being depressed is to find someone that understands them, or at least tries to understand their feelings. Find someone that cares about their feelings. Apparently it's also good for enneagram 4's to get in touch with their creative side, to express your feelings via creation and expression.
    () 9w8-3w4-7w6 tritype.

    sCueI (primary Inquisition)

  5. #5
    Senior Member compulsiverambler's Avatar
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    blankpages,

    It's interesting that you get something similar. It doesn't sound quite the same but the time spans are the same. May I ask what your gender is? I wonder how much of it might be affected by hormone cycles. I know some people's cause serious problems. I don't have the symptoms of PMDD though; I don't get any physical changes or discomfort at the same time. Still, could be related. I will start recording the dates I think. I wouldn't hesitate to take something to interfere with my hormones if that could help. I'm not using the damned things for anything!

    Usually it's just fantasising, about death in general or suicide or mass suicide (as a form of social protest), because it makes me feel a bit better, or it's weighing up the pros and cons of going through with it at some point. I've had immediate urges as well, especially this last time, but usually it's one of those two. Another way of determining the severity of suicidal thoughts is the question of whether you're asking yourself exactly HOW you might do it. Again, a couple of times, but not usually.

    Soft bipolar is another term for bipolar II or cyclothymia, isn't it? I don't think I've ever had the symptoms of a hypomanic episode, and I don't remember ever having a good mood I considered destructive afterwards, so I don't think it's that.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Tiltyred's Avatar
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    Could it be hormonal? I very often had intense suicidal ideation a day or so before.

  7. #7
    Senior Member compulsiverambler's Avatar
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    Seymour,

    The process you describe is just what usually happens at these times. I don't know why it would come in these waves though. As a side note, it's interesting that you consider Ti our third function. I think it probably is somewhere high up the list of mine too, but I don't know of any published type theories that consider that the case. Personally I imagine the development and use of everything after the first two to be highly variable between people.

  8. #8
    Vaguely Precise Seymour's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by compulsiverambler View Post
    Seymour,

    The process you describe is just what usually happens at these times. I don't know why it would come in these waves though. As a side note, it's interesting that you consider Ti our third function. I think it probably is somewhere high up the list of mine too, but I don't know of any published type theories that consider that the case. Personally I imagine the development and use of everything after the first two to be highly variable between people.
    I would agree that it is highly variable. I was going by Lenore Thomson's function order. In her listing, it goes Fi Ne are the top two functions for INFP, and Si Te are the bottom two. The whole set, in order would be: Fi Ne Ti Se Ni Fe Si Te.

    Keep in mind I'm going from memory (and trying to mimic the alternation patterns). Also note that the Thomson's listing for INFP (and ISFP, I think) in their individual entries in her book is incorrect (Fi isn't even first for either... clearly a cut and paste error). In the "master" listings in her book, though, they are correct (and consistent with her layout of the other types).

    I find that Thomson's type listing fits my subjective experience really well. Te is undoubtedly the thing I find most painful and unnatural for me. Facts and details (Si) are difficult for me to focus on unless it's in support of something I really care about. Fe doesn't come easily and can be a blind spot (and I'm hardly the only INFP who is not an Fe master, just look at the "INFJ/INFP Points of Contention" thread).

    On the other hand, my Ti is pretty good, and I can, in the right mood, just get lost in the sensory input of the moment.

    Anyway, I agree that the middle set is much more variable in practice. I also freely admit that I like Thomson's ordering because it fits me, personally, better. Your mileage may vary.

    (BTW, I am curious if there are correlations between functions and Enneagram types. I identify both with INFP and Enneagram 5, and I'm wondering if higher than usual Ti is related to that. Of course, might be a 4w5, but I don't think I have morbid ideation.)
    Last edited by Seymour; 11-09-2009 at 03:38 PM. Reason: Add Enneagram P.S.

  9. #9
    Senior Member compulsiverambler's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BlackCat View Post
    This isn't related to Fi... this is an enneagram four trait. INFPs most commonly are type 4's, and what you said here exactly-

    Is exactly what four's do. Also 4w5s are more likely to think about morbid things, which is what you seem to be based on what I've seen of you (4w5).

    I would say that the best way for fours to stop being depressed is to find someone that understands them, or at least tries to understand their feelings. Find someone that cares about their feelings. Apparently it's also good for enneagram 4's to get in touch with their creative side, to express your feelings via creation and expression.
    I never looked into the Enneagram much before. 4 and 5 do look the most like me.

    When this happens, and whenever I'm unhappy really, I always want to withdraw from people more. I never suppose that I'll be able to make anyone understand well enough, or that they'll offer helpful suggestions I haven't thought of. The problem always seems too complicated and impossible, and I think if I can't fully grasp it or explain it, outsiders don't stand a chance. Partly true perhaps, but maybe missing the point. I only ever feel like sharing my feelings and experiences when bonding with someone more deeply or when reflecting on them after the fact (like this).

    It probably shouldn't be as novel an idea to me as it is, but yeah, maybe I really should give it try to force myself to socialise and/or talk about my problems when unhappy. I know it works for other people, but I've never taken seriously the idea that it could help me. I've been proven wrong before about things I assumed would just never apply to me. It's worth a shot.

    Maybe committing some of my crazier thoughts to paper or a Word document would help get it out of my system sooner too. I could turn them into something worthwhile later. Thanks.

  10. #10
    Senior Member compulsiverambler's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tiltyred View Post
    Could it be hormonal? I very often had intense suicidal ideation a day or so before.
    I'm wondering the same. I'll have to start recording it to see if it follows any strict chronological or biological pattern. If so maybe there's some kind of hormone treatment I could try.

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